Everyone knows that dating is a minefield - but having to start dating again at forty is a largely masochistic exercise. And, when it comes to sifting through the leftovers that no-one else wants, you’re really in trouble. Wounded souls, degenerates or good old-fashioned whack-jobs; the dating market for the older woman is dauntingly bleak.
I’ve realised that part of my misfortune is due to my reliance on internet dating. The tedious protocol of exchanging messages through the dating site, moving on to some laboured email banter and then - the kiss of death to any would-be internet dater - the phone call. It usually kills any fledgling romance stone dead. Once you’ve finally met up with your date, you can guarantee that they’ve run a complete credit check, Googled with forensic zeal for any mention of you, and pretty much done the type of due diligence you’d expect from a City banker homing in on the deal of the century. This, quite frankly, does not leave much opportunity for laughs. And laughs are what you’re going to need if you want to keep this show on the road.
We all want different things out of a relationship but, having been married twice and, let’s face it, been round the block a few times, I know what works when it comes to a great date and how to secure a second one.
Top Tip Number One: Don't drum up a list of qualities they have to have
For God’s sake don’t go on a date with a list of criteria that some lovelorn hopeful has to meet - they're a a potential suitor, not a car getting its MOT. I went on an accidental date with a fishmonger once – I misheard his job description over the eyeball-judderingly loud music at a club. We saw each other a few times, laughed a lot and, although it didn’t go anywhere, I can now fillet a bream in under thirty seconds.
Top Tip Number Two: You absolutely do not want to marry this person
Some while ago I dated the son of a Lord. We managed a second date because I bawled him out for being rude to a waiter at a curry house. I was so furious that I stormed out of the restaurant and he ran down the street after me to apologise, admitting he was trying to impress me. We met several times at his family’s pied à terre in Cadogan Place and, in the absence of bumbling waiters, he was not without charm. It was unfortunate that he took a call from Pater while we were having sex, but I forgave him. I figured that someone who’d learnt sexual etiquette from horses and Labradors just wouldn’t know how wrong this was. It was only when he disclosed that his favourite pastime was watching the Vicar of Dibley with 'Mummy' that the shine really dulled on my imaginary tiara. But, again, I now know a thing or two about the nobility which will stand me in good stead, come the revolution.
Top Tip Number Three: If you fancy them, do not hold back
In the hugely complicated arena of human sexuality, I reckon that as long as you’re not being degraded, subjugated or coerced, just get on with it. Once you’ve had a few long-term relationships, you know that the stomach-churning, knicker-wetting excitement wears off. If you’re blessed, that seismic lust is replaced with the kind of love that will fuel you for a lifetime. But, for at least one in three of us, that just doesn’t happen. Factor in a couple of kids, seven years of no sleep and a job that produces stress levels that could fracture tectonic plates, and you can kiss your libido goodbye. So if you’re lucky enough to discover that your date is causing you to pant a little, don’t hold back if the opportunity for sex presents itself – even if the location is not quite what one would wish. On a recent date I had such good fortune but, due to the inconvenience of a stroppy Colombian landlady and greedy fashion folk taking up every hotel room and billet in West London, we had to make other arrangements. Don’t judge me, but flailing about against the wall of a supermarket car park was every bit as wonderful as a night at Claridge’s. I had vague misgivings at the thought of some bored security guard knocking one out to the CCTV footage the next day, but as long as I don’t appear on Crimestoppers while I’m giving the kids their tea, I’m chalking it up as the best first date ever. AND we’re having dinner next Tuesday, so I guess he still respected me in the morning.